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Organizers find reimagined ways to continue shell fest tradition

By STAFF REPORT / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Mar 2, 2021

Like many annual events planned for the islands, this year’s shell festival — typically put on and coordinated by three different groups — is going to look a little different due to the pandemic.

During a normal year, the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club, Sanibel Community Association and Shell Crafters partner to put on the popular Annual Sanibel Shell Festival at The Community House. There is a juried show inside with artistic and scientific entries, plus an author’s table, shell ID assistance, games and more. Outside, attendees can purchase an array of shells, shell critters, shell jewelry and such.

Proceeds raised from the inside activities are handed out by the shell club in the form of grants to marine education and conservation organizations locally, plus marine science college scholarships. The proceeds raised at the outside activities go to the maintenance and support of the non-profit TCH.

But for 2021, fans will have two ways to mark the annual event and, of course, all things shell.


PHOTO PROVIDED Shell art and shell crafts can be found at the 84th Annual Shell Festival.

The Sanibel Community Association and Shell Crafters will host the 84th Annual Shell Festival on March 4-5 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and March 6 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. inside of The Community House.

COVID protocols will be strictly followed, including mask wearing, temperature scans, and the ingress and egress routes being limited. The total attendees will be monitored to allow for social distancing.

An abundance of shells, shell art and crafts, and shell-related books will be on display, along with educational exhibits and a live tank for an up-close view of mollusks. Artwork donated by the Sanibel-Captiva Art League will be for sale with 100 percent of the proceeds going to TCH, and the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum will provide an offering of goods from its museum gift shop.

There will also be a new feature. When the festival came into being in the late ’30s and ’40s as the Sanibel Shell Fair, attendees looked forward to the pies and cakes prepared by residents and served at the community gathering. The week before, many island kitchens were busy baking the tasty treats.

This year, the tradition will be repeated and updated. TCH Resident Chef Jared Harris will prepare some of his favorite pies and cakes. The list includes banana creme pie, pecan pie, buttermilk pie, carrot and ginger cake with caramelized ginger frosting, flour-less chocolate cake, and chocolate and salted caramel tart. Attendees will be able to purchase the whole pie and cake, or just a tasty piece.

PHOTO PROVIDED An echo of years past, pies and cakes will be featured this year at the 84th Annual Shell Festival.

There is a $5 requested donation for entry. Time slot reservations are suggested, but not required. Those wishing to attend can set up tickets in advance by contacting The Community House at 239-472-2155.

Attendees will receive a coupon for buy one, get half off admission to the shell museum.

Parking will be free; food and beverages will be available for to-go only.

Those needing ADA access are asked to call ahead for information at 239-472-2155.

The Community House is at 2173 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.

PHOTO PROVIDED Two-day schedule for the 2021 Virtual Sanibel Shell Show.


The Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club’s 2021 Virtual Sanibel Shell Show will premiere on March 5-6 from noon to 3 p.m. on the club’s YouTube channel. The free show will feature more than 35 original video vignettes, a photo contest and door prizes and offer something to entertain and educate every interest.

One of the featured videos will show how professional mosaic shell artist Suzanne Dietsch creates sailor’s valentines in her studio in Illinois. It will showcase her valentines created from self-collected shells, purchased shells and other sea life, including fossils. Other shell art videos include a tour of hobbyist artist Andrea Schopf’s two studios and her work.

In another video, Sanibel Sea School Education Program Manager Shannon Stainken will host a presentation about the sand dollar. Learn what sand dollars can do with their feet, what and how they eat, how to tell if they are alive, what color a live sand dollar will turn your fingers and more.

One video will guide viewers “Behind the Tanks” at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum’s aquarium gallery. Aquarists Rebecca Mensch and Carly Hulse will host a special tour on how they keep the animals healthy and happy. In another video, she will chronicle her work with live junonias, with footage that shows for the first time how they subdue their prey.

PHOTO PROVIDED Two-day schedule for the 2021 Virtual Sanibel Shell Show.

The “101 Ways to Display Shells” video is filled with clever ideas, from placing shells within shells and displaying shells on corals and around door jambs, to organizing shells by type and color. Artistic projects featured will include a how-to project using a printer’s tray to display shells, the creation of a shell picture frame by the Shell Crafters, DIY “Beach Bling” hand sanitizer, shell magnet and more.

Interactive portions of the show will ask viewers to vote for the “Best Shell” photo from finalists selected out of over 300 photos from 15 countries. Door prize drawings during the two days will be available for viewers who comment on YouTube or the site, or email info@sanibelshellclub.com.

For questions, contact show Chair Clair Beckmann at 303-319-2435 or shellshow@sanibelshellclub.com.

For more information, visit https://sanibelshellclub.com/virtual-2021-sanibel-shell-show/.

PHOTO PROVIDED Photo from the 1950s of shells, artwork and food at the Sanibel Shell Show & Festival.

PHOTO PROVIDED Shell art and shell crafts can be found at the 84th Annual Shell Festival.